Insider's Guide to Santander, Spain
Santander’s royal residence and sandy beaches are usually on any visitor’s ‘to do’ list. Our insider highlights her top attractions including where to eat, what to see and where to party in this Spanish city.
A BIT ABOUT OUR INSIDER:
Name: Raisa Yap-Cotas
Place of birth: I was born and grew up in Santander, Spain
Occupation: Palazzo Versace, Australia
How long have you lived in Santander? I lived in Santander for 23 years before travelling around Europe and the Caribbean by boat. Now I am based on the Gold Coast, Australia
A BIT ABOUT SANTANDER:
How do you best navigate your city?
If you have time, by walking. There is a good bus network too.
What do you think Santander does better than other cities?
I enjoy Santander’s size. It’s a relatively small city which gives me a comfortable feeling that I don’t find in other cities.
Where is your favourite view of the city?
The cliffs that surround the lighthouse are hard to beat. It’s an impressive sea view with the Magdalena Palace in the background. ‘Las Reginas’ is a fantastic boat trip around the bay of Santander, from which you can take in views of the city and the mountains.
Where is your favourite respite from hectic city life?
I like to walk to the Palacio de la Magdalena peninsula to watch the seals and penguins on the coastline. Also to the lighthouse - in winter there is no traffic or people. I watch the sea from the cliffs and it’s highly therapeutic.
What is your favourite place for a workout?
With the mountains and the sea on our doorstep, it’d be a shame not to get active in the great outdoors. Santander is full of walkers, any age, any season, you’ll find people catching up over a stroll. Alternatively, you can go sailing on the bay, try your swing at golf or go skiing and snowboarding less than an hour from the city.
Do you have a favourite building?
Sadly the city burnt down in the 1940’s, so most of the downtown area and the original city disappeared. Luckily, some of buildings survived and have been lovingly reconstructed and restored. If I can only choose one building, it is the Cathedral; perhaps not as impressive as other Cathedrals but it’s a storyteller for the history of Santander.
Where would you stay if you were visiting, and why?
The Hotel Quiqui has one of the most beautiful views of the beaches, as does the Silken Rio or the Hotel Sardinero. All of them are a very nice option if you want to open the window of your room and breath fresh sea air.
Most underrated location?
The old wall of the city and the medieval remains that are underground. It’s a free and has a really good tour that not many people know about it.
TELL US ABOUT THE FOOD SCENE:
One of the best things about Santander is its food - I could talk about it for hours; excellent local produce, beautifully aged meat, fresh seafood and seasonal fruit and veg. I recommend visiting a local farmers market such as el Mercado de la Esperanza and talk to the local vendors about their produce.
Which dish is a must-try?
A tortilla from a traditional café like QueBec. I have a sweet tooth so also recommend the sobaos and quesadas El Macho from Corbatas of Unquera.
Where is your favourite local spot to eat?
My personal favourite is El Barrio Pesquero for an overflowing seafood platter; shrimp, prawns, muscles, clams, crabs, lobster, you name it. I also enjoy the hearty bean or chickpea stew, El Cocido Lebaniego or Cocido Montañes from Fuente De, and our local blue cheese, Queso picón, which smells as strong as it is delicious. I highly recommend visiting Fisherman’s Street; you’ll find a number of seafood restaurants with huge paellas cooking live.
Which restaurant has the best atmosphere?
Head to Peña Herbosa, a little street with lot of restaurants with plenty to offer.
Where serves the best value for money dining options?
The majority of restaurants serve a menu del dia (menu of the day) at lunch time including an entrée, main course, dessert, coffee, water and wine for less than 20€.
La Conveniente is also a good choice if you’re looking for a cheaper option. It’s a local bodega offering traditional delicacies such as croquetas, anchovies and local cheese.
Where is the best place to splurge on a delicious meal?
El Riojano is a beautiful restaurant with excellent service and a fantastic wine list. I suggest pairing a delicious rib-eye steak cooked to perfection and fresh hand cut chips with a recommended local wine.
I told you I could talk about food for hours.
NOW, ONTO THE NIGHTLIFE:
Which bar do you go to for the best atmosphere?
Rather than one specific bar, I’d head to Cañadío Square on a summers night; a very nice spot full of bars, people and a good time. I also like El Ruvicón, it’s unique, has live music and serves you a bowl full of spicy popcorn with your drink .
Where can we find the best wine?
Riojano (my best splurge restaurant) and La Bodega Cigaleña; a museum of wine filled with old bottles stored from wall to ceiling. Spend your time looking at the ages of the decorative bottles over a delicious house wine for less than 2€ per glass.
Best place to carry the night on post-midnight?
The place to be, especially in the hot nights of summer, is Plaza Cañadio. It will be busy with people drinking and socializing until the early hours of the morning,
FOR CULTURE VULTURES:
Where is your favourite local museum?
The Museum of Contemporary Art is a good choice. As it the Cantabria Prehistory and Archaeology Museum (MUPAC) which will help you get to know a little more about our cultural heritage.
And your favourite international museum?
Although not in our city, the striking Guggenheim in Bilbao is not to be missed if you’re in the region. It’s only about a one and a half hours drive from Santander.
Can you sum up why you love living in this city?
As you can probably tell, I really love Santander. It’s just beautiful, particularly in the summer. There’s so much life and festival spirit. The locals are friendly and there is a wonderful ambiance. Temperatures are comfortable and we have expansive beaches that meet the sea. Then of course there’s the food. You won’t forget the food.